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Saint Patrick

St. Patrick is one of the world’s most popular saints. He was born in Britain and when he was fourteen or so, he was captured by Irish pirates during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. At the time, Ireland was a land of Druids and pagans.

Patrick’s remained a slave for about six years, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found a boat that took him back to Britain and was reunited with his family.

A few years after returning home, Patrick had another vision, this time telling him that the people of Ireland needed him. They needed him to tell them the story of God and his teachings.

The vision prompted Patrick to study for the priesthood. After years of study and devotion he was ordained a bishop and sent to take the Gospel to Ireland.

Patrick arrived back in Ireland in 433. Legend has it that he went straight to the Hill of Tara, Slane, Co. Meath – this was at that time home to King Laoghaire, Ireland’s High King and Druid Chieftain.

Patrick lit a fire on the Hill of Tara, which was against all pagan laws, as it was the Celtic feast of Beltaine (Feast of the Fires)  a major pagan festival to celebrate the beginning of summer and triumph over the dark powers.

Traditionally at this festival, a fire would be lit by Ireland’s High King and his fire would then be used to light all other fires across Ireland.

So, when St Patrick lit a fire in advance of the king, he was deliberately inviting attention from Ireland’s pagan druid chiefs.

The king and the druids were furious and tried to put out Patrick’s fire. But the harder they tried, the stronger the flame got. 

Eventually they gave up and were unable to extinguish the saint’s fire. The king accepted that Patrick’s ‘magic’ was stronger than his and endorsed Patrick’s mission to convert the Irish.

There, he converted many people -eventually thousands – and he began building churches across the country.

Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for the next 40 years. He died on March 17, 461.

Saint Patrick - Proud Irish Heritage

St. Patrick and the Celtic Cross

Legend has it that Saint Patrick introduced the Celtic cross to the Celts.

Familiar with the Irish language and culture, he chose to incorporate traditional and pagan Irish symbols into his lessons of Christianity so that they would seem more natural to the Irish. 

The pagan Celts were said to worship the sun, so St. Patrick combined the image of the sun, a powerful Irish symbol, with that of the Christian cross, so the people would associate one with the other. 

This is what we now call the Celtic cross.

St. Patrick and the Shamrock

Before Christianity, the pagans held the number three in special regard and St Patrick used this to his advantage.

Merging pagan symbolism with Christian meaning, explaining the three leaves of the shamrock was like the concept of the Holy Trinity, that in the one God there are three divine beings: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

The three leaves of a shamrock are also said to stand for faith, hope and love. ( A fourth leaf is where we get the luck from). 

7 St. Patrick Facts

  1. Patrick was not Irish
    • Patrick was born on the island of Great Britain to Roman parents.
  2. St. Patrick was a slave
    • When he was 14 he was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep.
  3. Patrick did not drive the snakes out of Ireland
    • Snakes never made it across the land bridge that prehistorically linked the island of Ireland to the European continent.
  4. Patrick’s original colour was blue not green
    • The earliest depictions of St Patrick show him in blue garments, and the colour also appears on ancient Irish flags.  But over time, the blue became more associated with English rule, green grew in popularity as a symbol of rebellion. 
  1. St. Patrick was never canonized as a Saint
    • Patrick was never actually canonized by the Catholic Church. Patrick was likely proclaimed a saint by popular acclaim. This is simply due to the era he lived in. During the first millennium, there was no formal canonization process in the Catholic Church.
  2. Patrick was in his forties when he brought Christianity to Ireland
    • Patrick studieed for the priesthood for 16 years and was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under. It was then he returned to Ireland.
  3. St. Patrick’s resting place
    • St. Patrick is buried at Down Cathedral, Ireland. It stands on the site of a Benedictine Monastery, built in 1183. Saint Patrick’s remains are buried in the graveyard.

Click here to read about more stories about St. Patrick from the children of 1930’s Ireland.
In their own words….

“Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

“The Breastplate,” Patrick’s poem of faith and trust in God:

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